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What Social Security Mistake Looms for Married Seniors?

McNair Dallas Law

Advance Care Planning

Claiming Social Security prior to full retirement age (which falls between 66 and 67, depending on your year of birth) means slashing your monthly benefits for life. However, in some cases, it does pay to file early.

Many people are afraid to make a mistake when taking their Social Security benefits.  Some experts say that if you don’t expect to live a long life, it makes sense to sign up for Social Security at the earliest possible age of 62. This way you will begin receiving payments sooner, but you’ll decrease your monthly benefit.

The Muscatine (IA) Journal’s recent article entitled “This Social Security Strategy Could Backfire If You’re Married” says that, although this specific strategy does work well for seniors who are single, it’s more problematic for those who are married.

The benefit of being single as retirement approaches, is that you only have to think about your personal needs as you’re planning. So, if you don’t expect to live a long life, perhaps due to the fact that you have specific health issues or a family history of dying young, you may want to claim your benefits at age 62.

However, if you’re married, claiming Social Security early and cutting your benefits in the process could leave your spouse in a tough financial spot in the future. After you die, your spouse will be entitled to survivors benefits from Social Security. Those benefits are equal to the amount you collect each month. If you claim your benefits early and reduce them in the process, you’ll leave your spouse with less income.

In fact, decreasing your benefits by filing early is an extremely dangerous action, if you and your spouse haven’t built up a retirement nest egg. If you don’t have a decent retirement fund on which your spouse can rely in your absence, then slicing your monthly Social Security benefit—and in turn your spouse’s benefit—could create a major cash crunch for him or her.

However, if the two of you have a solid level of retirement savings, and your spouse plans to keep working during his or her senior years to stay occupied and generate income, you may have more flexibility as to when you sign up for Social Security. No matter, it’s important to consider your spouse’s needs and strategize together, before you decide to claim benefits.

In fact, your spouse may want you to file for Social Security early, so you have more money to enjoy your lives together while you’re still around, despite the fact that it will result in less monthly income in the future. Your spouse might also ask you to delay in signing up.

However, if you don’t have those discussions, you won’t know what your spouse is thinking.  You’ll be more likely to make a move that could injure the person you care about the most.

Reference: The Muscatine (IA) Journal (April 12, 2021) “This Social Security Strategy Could Backfire If You’re Married”

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